Britain’s post-war presence was damaged by  her fragile economic recovery and the Middle East difficulties. The Empire was largely intact and there. Was no power such as France, Germany or Russia to challenge it. This stability might seem very precarious but it was good enough to encourage Britain to believe that if she just hung on, as it were, then the world would come to rights and her Empire would be secure. Malaya was still a vital British asset and Britain fought a long guerrilla war there.


The British Government felt that the hydrogen bomb which the Soviet Union possessed changed everything even further. In 1957 Britain successfully tested her hydrogen bomb (having exploded an atomic bomb in 1952). According to a Cabinet memo:


Britain had tried to keep up with them [the USA and the USSR], but now, in the age of the hydrogen bomb, if we try to do so we shall bankrupt ourselves.¹


In view of the weak British economic position, the British Government wanted America to play a leading role for the defence of the Persian Gulf, since the United States declined to join the Baghdad Pact. As has already been said, containment of the Soviet Union and preventing her from reaching to the oil-rich Persian Gulf, was the concern of Britain as well as the United States. In the British Government’s view, the United States should understand that the British position in the Persian Gulf was for the defence of Western interests, which included the United States’ oil interests. According to the British Foreign Secretary, Selwyn-Lloyd:


We should seek to obtain American understanding of our position in the Gulf as the best guarantee of Western interest there including that of the United States oil companies.²


Though the United States did not join the Baghdad Pact, as has been mentioned earlier, to reaffirm her willingness, however, to intervene in the Persian Gulf zone if necessary, in January 1957, President Eisenhower set forth the Eisenhower Doctrine. The Eisenhower Doctrine was, sending the United States’ military forces to any part of the Middle East to combat overt armed aggression from any nation controlled by international communism.³

Eisenhower put his proposal to the Congress, and received their approval. Between $400 and $500 million were to be disbursed in two years in the form of economic and military aid to willing recipients in the area who would enter into agreement with the United States authorising and inviting the use of American arms to protect the integrity and independence of the signatory if threatened with overt armed aggression from international communism.

Successfully influencing the United States became the key to the solution of protecting British interests in the Persian Gulf. In the words of the British Foreign Secretary:


In seeking support for the maintenance of our position the attitude of the United States is of major importance.4


Due to

The spread of nationalism among Arabs who realised, especially after the lessons of the Suez war, that they were no longer helpless against major outside powers and that the decline of Britain would be followed not by a fresh foreign domination but by none.5


The Eisenhower Doctrine failed. It was seen in the Middle East as a US influence and imperialism in the area, underlined by the American intervention in the Lebanon in 1958. The Arab governments viewed the US action as an unjustified interference.


    1.  PRO, London, CAB 129/84, CP (57) 6, 5th January 1957.
    2.  PRO, London, CAB 129/84, Memorandum by the British Foreign Secretary, Selwyn-Lloyd, on Protecting British Interests in the Persian Gulf, 5th January 1957 .
    3.  P. CALVOCORESSI, World Politics since 1945, (New York: Longman, 1977), Chapter 10.
    4.  Ibid.
    5.  P. CALVOCORESSI, World Politics Since 1945, (London: Longman, 1980), p.193.

This is a unique website which will require a more modern browser to work!

Please upgrade today!